Tyler contacted me several weeks ago and asked to write a guest post about the words “In God We Trust” on our currency and the words “under god” in our pledge of allegiance. While his post focuses on the history and constitutionality of the issue, I want to note that these phrases “other” those Americans who do not believe in god, who believe in more than one god, or who believe in a god other than the Christian God, the divine being clearly being referred to with these phrases. You can read my previous writings on this subject here. And now, without further ado, Tyler’s post.
By Tyler Plofker
The first sentence of the first amendment of the US Constitution begins with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” However, the United States of America continues to do just that. Through the use of the phrase “under god” in the pledge of allegiance, as well as the presence of “In God We Trust” on all national currency, the U.S. government has tied itself with religion.
The origin of these two phrases has been somewhat shrouded over the course of history. It seems that, however arbitrarily we came about this intuition, a large portion of the American public believe these phrases to be as old as America itself. The truth is that both phrases have been fully enacted fairly recently, and for specific purposes at that. The phrase “under god” was added to the pledge of allegiance on June 14, 1954, while “In God We Trust” was made the national motto on July 30, 1956, and then added to all paper currency over subsequent years.
There are two main reasons for the addition of these phrases; one of a personal bias, and one of a national strategic bias. The personal bias stems from the fact that President Eisenhower – who presided over both inclusions – had become baptized as a Presbyterian in 1953. Maybe that had a something to do with his pushing of religious messages to the entire American public? Of course it did.
The second, and arguably more important, factor that caused the creation of these phrases was a need for the United States to separate itself from the Soviet Union at the time. During this time period the U.S. was in the midst of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, in which any possible advantage was of the upmost importance. The United States was desperate to distinguish itself from the state-endorsed atheist Soviet Union. What better way to show difference than to publicize your religiosity on your currency, and force your children to recite these religious ideas?
Regardless of how these phrases have come about, they are highly unconstitutional. As stated above, the United States is prohibited from “…respecting an establishment of religion…”, which they are in clear violation of in regards to the continued usage of these two phrases. Not only is the unconstitutionality outlined within the first amendment, but the “separation of church and state” is something that Thomas Jefferson clarified through a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association; a clarification in which it is made completely clear that there is an absolute wall between church and state.
The vocabulary in the pledge is of the upmost importance because it is effectively mandatorily required for children to recite. Children have no ability to properly discern what they believe about politics, let alone the origin of the entire universe. Yet, they are basically forced to recite a pledge including “under god” every day of their lives. Now, some people may point out that a child has the right to not say the words “under god”; in fact they have the right to not recite the pledge at all. However, when the entire class – with the encouragement of the teacher – is reciting the pledge, it creates an atmosphere in which the child effectively must recite it.
Whether you believe in god or not, it seems that it would be universally abhorred to put ideas into a child’s head that they are not yet able to contemplate; as in, it is certainly highly immoral to push ideas on a child before they are able to make their own decisions. If these children grow up without push back on the ideas they took for granted, which is often the case, they will inevitably be predisposed to believing something which they may not have if the full plethora of information was available to them. If a child recites these words every day, coupled with what they see on their own national currency, it is no surprise they may be biased towards a certain line of thinking.
We have to end this. We are a secular nation. The unconstitutionality of these phrases, coupled with the immorality of pushing them upon children, is undeniable. As you may have noticed, I have not remarked at all upon the veracity, or value, of these phrases (or lack thereof). That is because they are irrelevant to my argument. Regardless of how you feel about the phrases themselves, they are certainly unconstitutional, they are pushed on a segment of the population that can’t make a real decision on what they believe, they go against our concept of “separation between church and state”, and they threaten our status as a secular nation. It is time to end this. It is time to remove “god” from our pledge and our currency.
Tyler Plofker is currently a Umass Amherst student, atheist and political thinker, and sports writer for BigThreeSports. You can check out his sports related content at bigthreesports.com, and his other ideas in various locations including @TylerPlofker on twitter.